Fire crews attacked in Salford violence

Click to follow
The Independent Online
First Edition

A SECOND night of violent disturbances in the Ordsall area of Salford, Greater Manchester, continued into the early hours of yesterday morning. Police yesterday refused to discuss the violence in which gangs of masked youths attacked a security guard, set fire to a carpet store and threw bottles, stones and bricks at fire crews.

Gangs of youths, probably about 80 to 100 in all, met on the streets for the second night in what seems to have been a deliberate attempt to attack shops and businesses. But local residents said yesterday the police response to the disturbances had been heavy-handed and this in turn escalated the violence.

No senior police officer was permitted yesterday to discuss street disturbances in and around Salford. The force merely issued a brief statement through its press office saying that there had been a 'serious outbreak' of violence involving groups of youths.

The police did confirm that a security guard at a private block of flats in the area had been attacked by youths wearing masks and that he had been detained in hospital with a fractured arm.

Disturbances in the Salford area are not new, but it is the first time that fire crews, who arrived to tackle the blaze at the Carpetworld store in Regent Street, Ordsall, have been attacked with such severity. As police in full riot gear began forcibly dispersing people off the streets in the early hours yesterday youths began attacking the fire crews.

George Almond, Deputy County Fire Officer, said yesterday that crews would not be withdrawn from such incidents. He said: 'Increasingly, in this area in particular, my officers are coming under attack on a regular basis. A few years ago it would be unheard of for firemen to be attacked during the course of their duties. We are there quite simply to save life and protect property.'

One eye-witness to the disturbance, Ian Kearney, 23, a senior sales executive working for the Manchester Evening News, said in the newspaper yesterday that he had been caught up in the trouble on his way home.

He said: 'I sat by my car watching the fire. There were lots of people around, but it was very peaceful. Suddenly, just after midnight, eight van-loads of riot police arrived and started wading into the crowd, telling them to get back even though they were not in danger.

'One man sitting on his fence was coshed in the face and fell. I could not believe what I had seen. There was no riot when the police arrived. I am convinced their action started it.'

Salford council is involved in a long-term initiative to improve the conditions throughout the Ordsall estate and build better links between youths and the communities living there. Unemployment is high in Ordsall, with many children reaching school leaving age with no possiblity of being employed. The estate also borders better-off areas and new shopping developments.